Thursday, 13 August 2009

War and Secrecy

As specified in the posting "Publicity II" the reading of Perpetual Peace given in the first set of postings on publicity concerned only a very small portion of this text, namely, that in which the formulas of publicity were explicitly set out. The text of the work involves much more than this and I will, in a series of postings, go through the key formulations of the work from the beginning with specific attention to each clause that involves reference to questions concerning publicity.

The work opens with a brief introductory paragraph in which Kant states that, since "practical politicians" tend to look down on theoretical ones as ineffectual, so, it follows that they should not censor them since their works are of no danger to the state! The first section of the work then opens and this contains preliminary articles for perpetual peace among states, of which there are six. The first states: "No treaty of peace shall be held to be such if it is made with a secret reservation of material for a future war". (Ak. 8: 343) Notably Kant here immediately makes a reference to secrecy and indicates that acting in a way that requires it - thus acting against not merely the negative but also the positive formula of publicity - shows an action that is not in accord with its professed intention and this divergence between the act's real intent and its professed one is sufficient for the act to be deemed wrong.

The key point that is made with regard to such a secret reservation is that it shows that there is in this case no commitment to peace and so the treaty that has been signed by one who holds to this reservation has no claim to be called a peace treaty. Not only is such an act one that fails to match the expressed intent of offering peace it is also, says Kant, "beneath the dignity" of a ruler. To justify the divergence between expressed and real intent would require what Kant terms "jesuitical casuistry" and it is this that is beneath the dignity of the ruler (or minister). Such "refined" calculations demonstrate a principled commitment to avoiding consideration of what principles of publicity would involve and it is this that makes them beneath the dignity of the ruler. In including this reference to dignity Kant is implying a commitment to publicity is part of autonomous moral consideration since, as Kant claimed in the Groundwork: "Autonomy is therefore the ground of the dignity of human nature and of every rational nature" (Ak. 4: 436). If to deliberate in a way that requires secrecy is to lack dignity, i.e. to be swayed by heteronomy, then, by contrast, to act in a way that requires publicity, as is involved in the affirmative principle of publicity, is to act in accordance with autonomy. This reading of the first preliminary article hence confirms that the conclusion of the work with the affirmative principle of publicity is structurally already signaled from the beginning of the work and shows that this affirmative principle is the key formula of it.

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